A Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is a hybrid life insurance product that provides life insurance cover, investment opportunities and tax deduction under section 80C.
ULIP Plan is an amalgamation of life insurance and investment. Premiums paid towards ULIP plans are split in 2 different parts. One part of the premium goes towards the insurance component of the plan, whereas the other part is attributed towards the investment component. Since ULIP plans are typically life insurance products, investors get to enjoy tax benefits on the premium payment under section 80C of the Indian Income Tax Act.
ULIP investors can invest in funds of their choice include equity, debt, hybrid, money market, etc. depending upon their risk tolerance level, and long-term financial objectives. These future financial objectives usually include building a substantial corpus for major milestones in an investor’s life such as retirement, higher education of children, or marriage of children, etc. In order to help investors maximize returns, most ULIP providers allow easy and free switching between funds and asset class.
With experienced fund manager handling investment portfolio, ULIPs make for the best investment option even for newbie investors who do not really understand the market trends but wish to get lucrative returns on their investment. To keep thing transparent for investors, most ULIP providers declare daily and historical NAV, and projected future performance for different investment funds available with new-age ULIP plans.
ULIP plans were first introduced in India by Unit Trust of India (UTI) in 1971. This was followed by ULIP offerings from Life Insurance Corporation in 1989. Initially, a lot of investors shied away from investing in ULIPs due to the high charges associated with this insurance-investment product. However, in the recent times, major life insurance providers including Bajaj Life, HDFC, ICICI Pru, and Edelweiss Tokio came out with new-age ULIP products with bare minimal charges and multiple features to ensure maximum returns and comprehensive insurance protection for the investors.
In 2018, Union Finance Ministry reintroduced Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) taxes on equity-linked mutual fund schemes. Soon after the announcement, a large majority of life insurance companies started offering new-age ULIP plans as an alternative for equity-linked mutual fund schemes. In no time, ULIP plans started ranking alongside the most sought after investment instruments for investors with different risk appetite and budget.
With a plethora of options in the market, we’ve come up with the best ULIP plans in India 2019. This table is not in any specific order:
How to Choose the Best ULIP plan in India?
There are some things that an investor should keep in mind while choosing the best ULIP plans in India. Here’s a list of some pointers to consider while buying one:
Analysis of Personal Investment Goals
Before choosing a ULIP plan; it is a pre-condition for an every investor to analyse their long-term fiscal goals. It is mandate to opt for a ULIP that is in sync with the investment horizon and the investment goals.
Decide Insurance Objectives
One should first decide the insurance objectives and then select a ULIP plan that fulfils them. If one is young, current as well as future family requirements need to be considered because the insurance cover should be adequate if something happens to the insured. Family planning, i.e. the number of children one plans to have is an important consideration. It is imperative to understand that ULIP is a long-term investment product. Therefore, one should be clear about the investment and insurance objectives when putting money in a unit linked insurance plan to get the maximum benefit from the investment.
Decide Investment Goals
Investment goals are extremely important. One should spend sufficient time and think before in deciding these goals. This exercise, if done well, makes the process of choosing unit linked insurance plan easy. Investment goals may vary from having a corpus for the higher education requirements of the children after some years to having sizeable funds for the child’s marriage. They may also include having the requisite amount of money for post-retirement needs. Utmost importance should be given to one’s investment goals. Once these goals have been decided, one can look for ULIPs with their benefits which fulfil the goals adequately.
Choosing the best ULIP plan becomes a cakewalk when the investor is aware of its different benefits and features of unit linked plans. The comparison can be done in the traditional offline way or online using one of the many online insurance comparison portals. The websites rank and compare plans of different insurance companies on parameters such as sum assured value, policy term, and different charges and bring to the fore, the many differences in a ULIP plan.
The investor can also make use of the ULIP Calculator to calculate the returns on the investment so as to make a well-informed and wise decision.
Yet another factor that is to be taken into consideration while choosing a ULIP plan is flexibility that is offered by the intended unit linked plan. Here are two things that the investor must take into account so as to compare ULIP plans on the parameters of flexibility:
- Policy Tenure Flexibility: Many ULIP plans are long-term; resultantly, they tag along with a lock-in period 3 to 5 years. Before making investment, the investors should analyse the investment horizon. Based on the intended period of the investment, they should pick the best ULIP from a variety of plans available at their disposal.
- Investment Flexibility: The unit linked insurance plan allows the policyholders to pick the investment options even before investing in their intended unit linked insurance plans. Basis their risk appetite they can choose from hybrid, equity, or debt ULIP plans.
Evaluate Risk Profile and Financial Stability
It is important to appraise one’s own risk profile and financial stability before choosing a unit linked insurance plan. Younger people who typically have higher risk appetite can go in for plans, which are more equity focussed to the extent of 100% equity allocation. Those people for whom financial stability is of prime importance will do well with a plan that primarily invests in debt instruments, which provide stability albeit with limited returns.
Understand Different Charges Levied
While choosing a unit linked plan from the best ULIP plans available, understand the charges well. These include initial charges, premium allocation fee, fund management fee, surrender charges, mortality charges, and administration and service charges. Proper information and knowledge about charges helps to filter and choose the right ULIP plan.
Be Well-Versed with the Features and Benefits of a ULIP Plan
Every ULIP plan is different. Each plan has distinct features and benefits. Having a proper understanding of the pros and cons of each plan makes the decision to choose a unit linked insurance plan easy. One is able to find a better fit based on personal requirements if the characteristics are understood well.
Check the Performance of the Plan
Finding out the performance of a ULIP plan under consideration is a good idea. One can refer to the performance of last three to four years. It gives a fair idea about returns that one can expect from the plan. The returns should also be compared to benchmark indices like the Nifty of the NSE and the Sensex of the BSE.
Key Features of ULIPs
ULIP plans come packed with a variety of features to aid the investors make sure fiscal security against all the future adversities, enjoy tax benefits, and maximise their financial corpus manifold. No wonder, unit linked insurance plan remains the investment choice for both novice and seasoned investors. Here’s a little rundown on some of the key features of ULIP, which gives an additional edge over the other investment options:
Unit Linked Insurance Plan gives a lot of flexibility to the policyholder. One has the option to switch between different funds to match one’s changing needs. There is also a facility to partially withdraw from the fund and this is subject to special charges and conditions. One can even invest additional sums of money as top-up over regular premiums. The ULIP NAV is a smart tool to track the investments and make sure the investors stay invested in the best ULIP plans.
Funds for Crucial Milestones in Life
Significant amount of funds are required at different stages in life. They may be required for one’s business, building a house, child’s marriage, etc. The facility to partially withdraw money gives access to much-needed funds at critical stages to address important needs. Investors should use the best ULIP plans to smartly plan their future money requirements.
Protecting the Child's Future
The unit linked plan gives the ability to invest in market linked funds to earn better market-type returns, and help create a corpus that can be used to secure the child’ future. The funds can be used towards a child’s education, his or her marriage, etc. Parents can easily keep a check on the NAV to make sure the returns offered are in keeping with future requirements.
Financial Security Post Retirement
Equities tend to do well over the long term. Therefore, unit linked insurance plan are a good choice to add value to one’s retirement portfolio. To have sufficient funds post retirement, one should invest in equity oriented funds in their twenties and early thirties. With age, one can gradually shift investments to more conservative debt funds.
Benefits of ULIP
A ULIP plan comes loaded with a host of benefits for its investors. Here’s a rundown on the different benefits of ULIPs:
A ULIP plan presents an opportunity to earn market-linked returns. A part of the premium paid in a Unit Linked Insurance Plan in invested in funds, which invest in different market instruments including debt and equity in varying proportions. The policyholder stands a chance to earn returns based on the market. Investors can use the data such as the NAV to keep a tab on returns and ensure they stay invested in the best ULIP plans.
Investment and Insurance Benefits
Unit Linked Insurance Plan offers the triple benefits of investment, life cover, and tax savings. Meaning that the investor gets to benefit from a comprehensive life cover based on his/her preferences and budget and reap market-linked returns on his/her investment.
A unit linked plan offers death benefits in case of the death of the insured during the policy term. While the death benefits are catered to as SA together with the value of the fund, benefits may differ based on the cause of demise of the insured.
A ULIP plan also comes packed with maturity benefits in case the policyholder endures the maturity period of the plan. Usually, maturity benefits are catered to the insured as the sum of the value of the fund. Nevertheless, some insurance companies may cater to add-on benefits based on the terms and conditions.
On top of the insurance and investment benefits, Unit Linked Insurance Plan also offers tax exemption benefits for maximum of Rs. 1.5 Lakh u/s 80C of the IT Act, 1961. Moreover, the maturity benefits on ULIPs are also tax free. Nevertheless, there is a forewarning. The minimum Sum Assured or the Death Benefit should be at a minimal of 10 times of the annual premium. If the given this is not the case, the tax benefits are covered at 10% of the SA and its Maturity Benefits are not tax free.
Long-term Investment Benefits
A ULIP plan is one of the most sough-after investment instruments for the ones who are seeking to earn maximum returns on the investments they make in long-term. It is vital to understand that the market volatility and fluctuations may have an impact on the returns in short-term. Instead, keeping the investment for a longer period makes it easy for the investors to deal with the market volatility and earn a high rate of return on the investment. A unit linked insurance plan allows for the long-term investments and make it simpler for the investors to reap the maximum returns on the investments.
A unit linked insurance plan comes handy in such situations. A ULIP plan allows its investors to withdraw a portion of the investments in case of emergency, after the completion of a pre-determined timeline. Generally, such withdrawals are tax free.
Advantages of Unit Linked Insurance Plan
Apart from a bunch of benefits and features a ULIP plan has, there are various advantages of a ULIP plan. They are as follows:
Life Protection, Savings, and Investment
Unit Linked Insurance Plan offers the dual benefits of savings at the market-linked returns and life insurance. Hence, the policyholder has the opportunity to make investment to reap higher returns, while paying attention to the protection needs. Making investments in unit linked plans aids to inculcate a habit of investing and saving that is vital to build a financial corpus over a period of time.
The insured has to pay a premium as lump sum at the beginning of the term of the unit linked insurance plan.
How do ULIPs work?
In unit linked plans, one share of the paid premium towards the plan goes towards ensuring the life cover for the policyholder, whereas the other share of the paid premium is invested in various types of fund options. The investors can choose the fund options basis their wealth creation goals and risk appetite. In the event of the untimely and unfortunate demise of the policyholder, the nominated beneficiaries will be given the insurance and/or the fund value, whichever is higher, based on the type of unit linked insurance plan.
Much like the mutual funds, the insurance company will give the ‘Units’ basis the proportion of the investor’s money invested in the market. This unit is the representation of the investment and is allocated a NAV that is evaluated and declared daily.
In order to understand the working of these plans, here’s an example:
Akash, a 30 year old man, invests in unit linked insurance plan with a yearly premium of Rs. 50,000 for a period of 20 years. The policy essentials would be:
Initial Sum Assured = Rs. 5,00,000 (yearly premium x 10)
Annual Administration and other charges = Rs. 2500
Total Annual Investment = Rs. 47,500
Initial NAV Value = Rs. 10
Units purchased = (47500/10) = 4750
|Payment made to the nominee if Akash dies within the policy term = Rs. 5,00,000 (Sum Assured) or the Fund Value (whichever is higher).
||Payment made at the time of maturity if Akash is alive, which will be the Fund Value.
Why to Invest in ULIP?
ULIP combines the benefits of insurance and investment in one financial instrument. In any case, they are better than insurance or investment alone. With the protection of a life insurance cover, they also provide the option to earn market linked returns to take care of important goals in life.
ULIP plans come with higher returns. The investor can expect 12%-15% returns from his/he investment for tenure of 10 years. This is because ULIP offers various options to its investors like balanced funds, equity funds, or debt funds. Basis the risk appetite of the investor, s/he can choose one of the aforementioned options. ULIP allows switching between the funds, and by doing so an investor can obtain higher returns on the amount invested by them.
They Help Avoid the Everyday Hassle of Managing Stocks
One can invest in equity based market funds, which offer a higher rate of return as compared to debt funds. In addition to higher returns, one does not have to worry about monitoring the stocks every day. The insurance company and its fund managers take care of that. They also bring to the table, expertise in fund management. Policyholders can also easily keep a tab on their portfolio with simple tools such as the unit linked insurance plan NAV.
Multiple Fund Options to Choose From
ULIPs prove multiple fund options at ones disposal. One can choose the type of fund where the premiums will be invested. These can be fully debt or equity or a combination of the two in varying ratios. Looking the historical returns over the years as well as its NAV will make it easier to understand which the best ULIP plans are. Depending on one’s risk taking ability, changing life and financial situation, one may choose to switch the fund to best adjust to the new scenario. Equity focused funds are apt for people with higher risk appetite while debt focused funds are more suitable for risk-averse people who want guaranteed returns.
One of the plus points of a ULIP plan is that it is an extremely transparent financial product. Unlike traditional plans where no information is shared with the policyholder, one is provided information about all the charges levied. From the easy to understand the NAV to the historical returns, the numbers help pick the best ULIP plans easily. In addition, one clearly knows where the current account stands.
Unit Linked Insurance Plan is a fairly liquid investment product. They offer partial withdrawal of money to meet unpredictable events and emergencies. Also, the NAV of each fund is generally displayed on the website of the insurance company. Checking the NAV numbers will help to easily align the investment and insurance cover with the overall needs.
Low Surrender Charges
Surrender charges are charges that one has to pay in case one is surrendering a policy. If one finds oneself in a situation where one is stuck with a plan that is no more suitable, one can bear the surrender charges and rid oneself of such a policy. The surrender charges are unbelievably high in case of traditional plans leaving one with only a small portion of money invested post exit. However, they are reasonable in the case of ULIPs.
Types of ULIPs
There are several types of ULIPs and they can be broadly categorised based on the needs and financial objective of the investor. Let us explore the types of unit linked insurance plans:
Classification by Purpose
ULIPs are best classified on the basis of purpose they serve:
ULIP for Retirement: In this plan, the policyholders need to make the payment during their tenure with their employer, which is automatically collected in a corpus amount, which is paid in the form of annuities to a policyholder after retirement. Whole life ULIP schemes come loaded with systematic withdrawal option, which gives flexibility and tax free income.
||Premium Allocation Charge
||Policy Admin Charge
||No. of Free Switches in a Year
|Bajaj Life LifeLong Goal
||0 years to no limit
||Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 60,000
||Nil (for online sales)0% to 6% (for offline sales)
|HDFC Click2 Wealth – Golden Years Benefit
||0 years to 60 years
||Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 24,000
|Max Life Online Savings Plan
||Rs. 3,000 per month
Rs. 36,000 annually
|ICICI Pru Easy Retire
||35 years to 70 years
||0% to 6%
||A maximum of Rs. 500 (per month) and Rs. 6,000 per annum
ULIPs for Wealth Collection: This plan primarily accumulates wealth over a period of time. Such plans are recommended for people who are in the late twenties and early thirties and by investing in this plan; they get the flexibility to fund their any future financial goal.
||Premium Allocation Charge
||Policy Admin Charge
||No. of Free Switches in a Year
|Bajaj Life Goal Assure
||0 to 60 years
||Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 36,000
||Rs. 400 per annum inflating @ 5%
|HDFC Life Click2 Wealth
||0 (30 days ) to 60 years
||Single: Rs. 24,000Quarterly: Rs. 3,000
|Max Life Online Savings Plan
||Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 36,000
|ICICI Pru Life Time Classic
||0 to 75 years
||Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000
||A maximum of Rs. 500 (per month) and Rs. 6,000 per annum
|Edelweiss Tokio Wealth Plus
||1 to 55 years
||Rs. 36,000 to Rs. 60,000
ULIP for Children Education: As a parent, an individual wants to ensure that no unforeseen event affects his/her child’s overall education in any condition. There are several unit linked plans that provide money in small chunks in the key events of the policyholder’s children’s life. This ensures that no unforeseen even hinders their life in any manner. Moreover, ULIP child plans come packed with Waiver of Premium (WoP) option.
||Premium Allocation Charge
||Policy Admin Charge
||No. of Free Switches in a Year
|Bajaj Life Future Gain – Premium Waiver Option
||1 year to 60 years
||Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 25,000
||Rs. 33.33 inflating @ 5% per annum
|HDFC Life Click2 Wealth – Premium Waiver Option
||0 to 60 years (Life Assured)18 to 65 years (Proposer)
||Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 12,000
|Max Life Online Savings Plan – Premium Waiver Option
||18 years to 54 years
||Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 36,000
|ICICI Pru Smart Kid
||20 years to 54 years
||Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 5,00,000 per annum
||Single Pay: 3%Regular Pay: 2% to 6%
||A maximum of Rs. 500 (per month) and Rs. 6,000 per annum
|Edelweiss Tokio Wealth Plus – Rising Star
||1 year to 17 years
ULIPs for Health Benefits: In addition to some common benefits, unit linked insurance plans efficiently provide financial assistance to meet medical contingencies.
Classification based on Fund Options
Based on the types of fund investment by ULIPs, classification is as follows:
||Type of Investment
||Corporate Bonds, Government Securities, etc.
||Stocks, Corporate shares, etc.
||Fixed Interest and Equity Instruments
These are the funds where the investors invest the premium in debt instruments that carry a lower risk but offer lower returns.
Equity funds are the investment instruments where the investors invest the premium in the equity markets and hence are subject to higher risks.
Balanced funds are the options where the premium is balanced between the equity market and the debt market to minimize the risks for investors.
Classification by Death Benefits
Unit linked insurance plans can also be categorised on different criteria or norms. For instance, ULIPs are categorised into two broad categories depending on the death benefit:
Type 1 ULIP Plans
In case of death of the policyholder, the nominee receives death benefit, which is equal to higher of the sum assured or fund value by the insurance company.
The mortality charge in type 1 unit linked insurance plan keeps on reducing every year as the sum at risk reduces. The sum at risk is the difference between the accumulated fund value and sum assured under the policy. In other words, it is the amount an insurance company pays from its own pocket in the event of the death of the policyholder.
Let’s understand this with the help of an example. Suppose, the insured took a ULIP plan with a sum assured of Rs. 50 lakh. He has paid the premium for 7 years and the fund value has now grown to Rs. 28 lakh. In the event of the death of the policyholder, the beneficiary will receive Rs. 50 lakh, the higher of sum assured (Rs. 50 lakh) or fund value (Rs. 28 lakh).
Type 2 ULIP Plans
When a policyholder dies, the death benefit received by the nominee in case of type 2 ULIP is equal to sum assured plus fund value.
One thing to note is that premiums for type 2 plans are higher than those for type 1 ULIP plans. A Type 2 ULIP plan also considers mortality rates with every policy year because the risk of death increases with age.
As above, let us look at an example to understand the concept better. Taking the above scenario where the insured has taken a unit linked plan with a sum assured of Rs. 50 lakh. And the policyholder has paid the premium for 7 years, which has resulted in fund value now standing at Rs. 28 lakh. In the event of the death of the policyholder, the beneficiary or nominee will receive Rs. 78 lakh, i.e. sum assured (Rs. 50 lakh) plus fund value (Rs. 28 lakh).
ULIP Checklist: Things one should Care before Investing
- ULIP is a complex financial product. It comes in a lot of variants, each with its unique set of features and benefits. Buying it can be a mind-boggling process. However, if an investor will follow these simple steps, the process of choosing a right unit linked plan can become hassle-free.
- It is always good to have the know-how of the working of a unit linked plan. Do the homework well and read as much as possible about unit linked plans before investing.
- The investor should know charges levied on entry and exit of the policy.
- The investors must keep their focus on their investment goals rather than getting swayed by some luring feature of a unit linked insurance plan. Identify a plan that best suits to their risk appetite and financial health. If an investor has a high-risk appetite, then s/he must opt for a high-risk high-return fund.
- Carefully examine how the fund has performed in the past 2 to 3 years while the benchmarks remain indices like BSE or Nifty.
- Compare ULIP products of different insurance companies in terms of premium payments, scheme performance, additional facilities and cost structure.
ULIPs vs Traditional Plans vs Mutual Funds
These three investment options can often be seen locking horns with each other. But who's the best among them - ULIPs, Traditional Plans or Mutual Funds? The answer primarily depends on three factors:
- Risk appetite
- Investment goals
- Financial health
When putting the aforementioned financial products to comparison, one should keep in mind, insurance is imperative as it is about protecting his/her loved ones from the unexpected circumstances; on the other hand, investment is a choice, made with the sole intention of multiplying his/her wealth.
Differences between ULIP Plans, Traditional Plans & Mutual Funds
The following table shows the key differences between Unit Linked Insurance Plans and Mutual Funds and the Traditional Plans:
||Low Cost ULIPs
||A ULIP is insurance cum investment plan in which risk cover is promised, but return solely depends on the market performance
||Traditional plan is insurance cum investment plan that promises both risk cover and returns to the investor
||A mutual fund is a pure investment product that gives market linked returns. There's no risk cover
||The money is invested in debt, equity and hybrid funds, which can be chosen as per risk capacity
||The money is invested only in debt instruments
||The money is invested in equities, debts and other money market instruments
||One can withdraw money but only after the lock in period (currently 5 years)
||Traditional Plan locks in the policyholder’s funds. S/he can't withdraw money before maturity
||No lock-in period. Cashing out the funds is easy
||Loyalty benefits are given on long term investment of ULIPs
||Some traditional plans offer loyalty benefits to policyholders for continuing the policy for the full tenure
||No loyalty or long term benefit is given
||It is a market linked product so there is risk element
||These plan cater to people having low risk appetite
||Mutual funds are risky
Types of ULIP Charges
ULIPs do have certain charges associated with them, which can be sub-divided into multiple categories. Following are the ones that must be known by an investor:
Premium Allocation Charges
The charges, namely premium allocation charges are imposed - beforehand on the premium paid by the investor. These are the initial expenses incurred by a company in issuing the policy, like medical expenses and underwriting cost. New age ULIP plans, also referred to as 4G ULIPs are online-only model and come with zero premium allocation charges.
These charges are deducted regularly for the recovery of expenses borne by the insurance company for maintaining a life insurance policy. 4G ULIP comes with zero administration charges.
These charges refer to the deduction for full or partial encashment of premature units subject to the policy documents. These charges are levied as a percentage of the fund value or as a percentage of the premium.
The expenses, namely mortality charges are borne by the insurer to provide a life cover to insured, which vary with the age and sum assured of the policy. These charges are deducted on a monthly basis.
Fund Management Charges
The aggregated sum through ULIP funds is invested in equity instruments and debt. The insurer bears these charges for fund management, which vary with both fund and plan. The amount is subject to deduction calculating the net asset value or NAV.
Fund Switching Charges
ULIP plans enable the investors to invest their hard-earned money in different fund options that further have multiple debts equity exposure as well as provide them with the option to switch between different funds for which their insurance company will charge the switching fee. Most of the policies provide few free switches every year.
On premature discontinuation of a plan within lock-in period, the insurer deducts a small fee. Since these charges are pre-set by IRDA, these are the same for almost all policies.
In ULIP, premiums the investors pay are invested in debt and equity instruments, chosen by them, after deducting allocation and other charges. The value of each fund is computed by dividing total value of the fund’s investment by the total number of units.
Partial Withdrawal Charges
The policyholder can carry out lump sum withdrawals from the fund after the policy lapses and subject to the pre-determined conditions. Nevertheless, the partial withdrawals attract charges, as specified in the respective policy document.
ULIP NAV, in everyday terminology, refers to the Net Asset Value (NAV) of each unit of the ULIP fund on a particular day. The insurance companies generally display this NAV of each fund on their websites under the relevant section.
What is ULIP NAV?
Though ULIP NAV is now more understood on a per unit basis, in the strict financial sense, it refers to the net value of the assets of the firm. In other words, this NAV equals the assets minus liabilities. The assets taken to calculate the NAV of these plans include the market value of investments held by the insurance company’s fund, the value of the fund’s current assets and any accrued income. The liabilities taken to calculate the NAV include fund management charges, current liabilities, provisions and service tax.
To arrive at the NAV of a single unit, the ULIP NAV of the whole fund is divided by the number of units in the fund existing on the valuation date. The resulting figure is the NAV per unit of the plan, which is what common terminology refers to when speaking of ULIP NAV.
As per a directive of IRDA in 2013, the valuation of equity shares is now calculated on the closing price of the company’s shares on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), which is also the primary exchange. In case a security is not listed or traded on the NSE, the closing price of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) or the secondary exchange has to be used for the purpose of computation of ULIP NAV.
Like mutual funds, ULIP policyholders are also allotted units. Each unit has a net asset value (NAV) that is determined and declared every day. It is the value on which net rate of returns on ULIPs are determined. The NAV varies from one ULIP to another as it is based on prevailing market conditions and the performance of the fund.
Who should invest in ULIP?
The following are the ULIPs for different classes of investors:
People with Varying Risk Appetites
Most insurance companies offering unit linked plans provide a range of debt, equity and a mixture of debt and equity funds to choose from to cater to all kinds of consumers. Equity funds offer higher returns and are appropriate for aggressive investors willing to take high risks. On the other hand, debt funds are less risky and consequently offer lower returns. Therefore, a ULIP plan serves all types of investors – from the risk-averse investor to an investor having a strong appetite for risk. Keeping a track of the historical NAV of these plans will help the person looking for the best ULIP plan to understand which one he or she should invest in.
People looking for an avenue for investment along with insurance will find ULIPs a good choice as one stands to gain from superior market returns in addition to having an insurance cover.
People with Medium to Long Term Investment Horizon
Unit Linked Insurance Plans are suitable for people who wish to invest in long-term investments. To get the best returns from ULIPs, one should invest in medium to lifelong investment horizons. In any case, they come with a compulsory lock-in period of 5 years. If one wants to create a corpus for his or her child’s higher education requirements or the child’s marriage expenditure, a unit linked insurance plan is a good choice due to its long-term outlook. Individuals can track the simple details such as the NAV of the unit linked plan, the total value of the fund, the equity-debt allocation to find the best ULIP plan for them.
ULIP plans are most suited for individuals who like to track their investments closely. Since each insurance company provides the NAV for each of its unit linked insurance plans on its site, people can easily determine which the best ULIP plan for their needs is. Moreover, with the flexibility of switching between debt, equity and balanced funds with varying risk-return profiles, hands-on informed investors will find ULIPs the best investment plan as they can keep close tabs on their investment and make changes based on how the market is performing. The fact that these ULIP plans offer insurance cover also is an added bonus.
Investors across Different Life Stages
ULIP plans are ideal for all kinds of investors at different stages in life as there are ULIP plans available depending on individual requirements and situations.
The need for protection is low for single people who have just started their careers. Their need for wealth creation and accumulation however is high; therefore, they can meet such needs by choosing a unit linked insurance plan with low death benefit and allocating in equity-focused investment funds. Keeping track of the NAV of these plans will further help them maximise returns by choosing the best ULIP plans for themselves.
Someone who is married but has no children has medium protection needs but has a high need for wealth creation. Such individuals can opt for a unit linked plan with higher death benefit and choose a growth or balanced investment fund for wealth creation.
For married individuals who are also parents, the need for protection is high, as is the need for asset creation to save for children. They can achieve this by choosing a ULIP plan with increased death benefit and choose riders for enhanced protection in addition to going for balanced funds for asset creation. Checking the NAV of these plans on a regular basis will help them optimise their fund allocation through the years.
People who are well settled in their jobs and have school going children have high protection as well as wealth creation needs. Their need for liquidity is also high to meet their child’s requirements. It is most advisable to go for a unit linked plan, which allows partial withdrawals to meet such liquidity requirements.
The need for protection is in the medium range for middle-aged individuals whose children are ready to pursue higher education or plan to set up a business or plan to get married. They require lump sum money to fulfil such responsibilities and this can be achieved by a ULIP plan allowing partial withdrawals.
People who are nearing retirement, whose children are independent, have low protection needs. They require safe accumulation of funds for post-retirement needs. Such individuals can opt for debt-oriented funds and lower the death benefit of their ULIP plan. These people should opt for the best ULIP plan for themselves that will give them regular returns without them having to worry about the NAV.
Myths about Investing in a ULIP Plan – Busted
A ULIP plan is a great product combining the benefits of insurance and investment in one single financial instrument. But, there exist many myths associated with unit linked plans because of misinformation and lack of clarity in the minds of consumers. Common myths of a ULIP plan are:
Myth 1: ULIPs are costly due to multiple inherent charges
Reality: People with the question ‘What is ULIP?’ have been led to believe that a ULIP plan is an expensive investment product due to charges like those towards premium allocation, fund management among other. The reality is that unit linked plans have changed significantly. People may not be aware but the IRDA of India (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) in 2010 has brought down the annual charges to 3% for the first 10 years of the holding period and 2.25% for more than 10 years of holding. This reduction excludes mortality and morbidity charges. The fund management charges (FMC) have also been capped at 1.35%. Capping of charges has been done to provide a reasonable value proposition to the customers. The charges were fixed at this rate because competing products such as mutual funds were charging an average cost similar to this. This has considerably brought down the cost of owing ULIPs and has made them affordable.
Myth 2: ULIPs are risky financial instruments
Reality: Another myth is that a ULIP plan is riskier investment product as it only invests in the equity market. This is absolutely not true. For anyone wanting to know what is ULIP offering, a ULIP plan gives the option of investing in debt, equity or a mixture of debt and equity as per the wishes of the policyholder. Depending on the type of risk one can take, different funds can be selected with different objectives. Aggressive funds which primarily invest in equity are apt for high risk-takers while conservative funds, which are debt-oriented, are more suited for risk-averse people. There is also the option of a balanced fund, which is a mix of equity and debt. A ULIP plan also gives the option of switching between funds as per change in personal conditions, change in risk appetite, etc.
Myth 3: ULIPs do not allow investment of surplus funds
Reality: ULIPs do allow investment of surplus funds. Surplus funds can be added as per availability to a unit linked insurance plan with a lower premium. Top-up premiums can be paid any time during the tenure of the existing unit linked policy and they enjoy the same tax benefits as regular premiums.
Myth 4: ULIPs allow continuation
Reality: People with the query ‘What is ULIP?’ have been confused and often misled into believing that ULIPs cannot be discontinued at all. Once can discontinue a unit linked plan after minimum 5 years of lock-in period without payment of any surrender charges.
Myth 5: Market volatility reduces life cover
Reality: There is also this confusion in the minds of consumers that the life cover under a ULIP decreases with market volatility. However, this is not true. The life cover remains unaffected with the rise and fall of stock markets. In case the insured dies during the policy term, ULIPs pay either the complete life cover or the fund value whichever is higher.
Myth 6: Health and accident cover is not provided in ULIPs
Reality: This again is completely untrue. A ULIP plan offers policyholders the twin benefits of insurance and investment. In addition, a ULIP plan has many optional rider options like other insurance products. Common riders are Accidental Death Benefit, Family Income Benefit, Hospital Cash Benefit, Waiver of Premium, etc. Additional cash requirements in case of emergencies can be taken care of through partial withdrawals. There may be some restrictions on clubbing two optional riders together but investors can always get the best ULIP plan with a suitable NAV for themselves.
Myth 7: ULIPs offer low returns
Reality: This again is a false notion prevalent among many people. The fact is that if money is invested judiciously in different funds with varying degree of exposure to equity and debt markets, investors stand a chance to lock in good returns upon maturity. The choice for funds, timely switching, redirection of funds or premiums, all ensure that one’s fund growth is healthy. Another thing to understand is that bare long term investment vehicles. With disciplined investing, they give attractive returns over the long term in addition to a life cover. All policyholders have to do is to keep a track of the NAV to get a policy that suits their needs. They can also opt for a different fund allocation that gives better returns after checking the NAV of these plans.
ULIP Plans by Insurance Companies
Here are some details about the top Unit Linked Insurance Plan providers in India:
HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company
HDFC Life is one of the most popular life insurance companies of India that offers a wide range of group and individual insurance products meeting various need for different life stages of the customers. It commenced its operations in 2000 and is a joint venture between Standard Life Aberdeen – an international investment firm and HDFC Limited – a leading housing finance company.
Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Company Limited
Established in 2001, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Company is a joint venture between Allianz SE – one of the leading insurance companies of the world and Bajaj Finserv Limited.
- Bajaj Allianz Principal Gain: This is an individual, unit-linked non-participating endowment plan that offers the option of limited as well as a regular premium payment. Additionally, Bajaj Allianz Principal Gain plan offers guaranteed loyalty additions at maturity and allows its investor to receive maturity benefit in instalments via the settlement option.
- Bajaj Allianz Fortune Gain: This non-participating, individual, single premium unit linked endowment plan offers 99.5% premium allocation for a single premium of Rs. 10 lakh and above. The systematic switching option helps manage investments better. It allows loyalty additions of 3% of the single premium depending on the single premium amount and chosen policy term.
- Bajaj Allianz Future Gain: It is a unit linked endowment plan that provides maximum premium allocation. There is a choice of two investment portfolio strategies, viz. the Investor Selectable Portfolio Strategy and Wheel of Life Portfolio Strategy. The plan offers seven funds to choose from for the investor.
Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance
Edelweiss Tokio Life led its foundation stone in the year 2011. It is a joint venture between one of the biggest and oldest insurance companies – Tokio Marine and one of the popular financial services firm – Edelweiss Financial Services.
- Edelweiss Tokio Wealth Accumulation: It is a non-participating unit linked insurance plan offering customised solutions to meet the wealth accumulation requirements of policyholders. It has a simple charge structure and offers policyholders a choice of multiple fund options to grow their investments. The plan also provides easy access to funds to the policyholders by way of loans and partial withdrawals.
Edelweiss Tokio Wealth Enhancement Ace: This non-participating unit linked life insurance plan comes with low allocation charges and flexible payment options. In case of death, the nominee of the policyholder receives the higher of the fund value or sum assured amount or 105% of the total premiums paid.
Max Life insurance Company Limited
Formerly known as Max New York Life Insurance Company, Max Life was established in 2000 and is headquartered at New Delhi.
Exide Life Insurance Company Limited
- Max Life Fast Track Super Plan: This non-participating unit linked endowment plan offers 5 funds to investors with ranging risk appetites. The option of Systematic Fund Transfer and Dynamic Fund Allocation mechanisms help protect investments against market volatility. It gives flexibility to customers in choosing premium payment term and the policy term.
Aviva Life Insurance Company India Limited
Founded in 2002, Aviva India Life Insurance Company is one of the leading insurance companies in India. Aviva is a joint venture between Aviva Group – a UK based group, which was associated with India in the year 1834 and Dabur Invest Corp – one of the oldest business houses in India.
- Aviva I-Growth: This unit linked, non-participating savings oriented life insurance plan offers a choice of three investment fund options and 3 policy terms. The total charge on the policy can be as low as 1% and the insured has the option to redirect premiums to different funds up to two times in a policy year.
- Aviva Live Smart Plan: It is a non-traditional, unit linked endowment plan offering a choice of 7 fund options – Growth Fund, Enhancer Fund, Bond Fund, PSU Fund, Infrastructure Fund, Protector Fund and Balanced Fund which cater to every category of investor. The plan allows four partial withdrawals after completing 5 years of policy.
DHFL Pramerica Life Insurance Company Limited
DHFL Pramerica Life Insurance, commonly known as DPLI, is a joint venture between Prudential International Insurance Holdings Limited (PIIH), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Prudential Financial Inc. and DHFL Investments Limited (DIL) a fully-owned subsidiary of Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited (DHFL) – one of the largest housing finance firms in India (2nd largest in the private sector).
- DHFL Pramerica Smart Wealth Plus: This non-participating unit linked insurance plan rewards policyholders with Persistency Units for continuing their policy. These are equivalent to 1% of the average fund value. The minimum age to avail the policy is 8 years and the maximum age at the time of entry is 55 years. 75 years is the maximum age at maturity.
Exide Life Insurance Company Limited
Headquartered at Bengaluru, Exide Life Insurance Company was founded in 2001-02. This is a profitable and established life insurance company serving over 15 Lakh customers and managing assets of more than Rs. 14,300 Crore.
- Exide Life Prospering Life Plus: This is a unit linked life insurance plan can be taken for 10, 15 or 20 years. After 5 years of the policy being active, one can make partial withdrawals to address any liquidity requirements that may arise. This policy can be surrendered any time before maturity, even within the initial 5 year lock-in period.
- Exide Life Smart Future Insurance Plan: This unit linked plan offers a choice of six different funds to invest. The policy tenure can range from 15 years to 30 years. It offers two premium payment choices – limited paying term or regular paying term. There is a limit on the minimum premium paid but is no upper limit. Premiums can be paid at monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual intervals.
Future Generali India Life Insurance Company Limited
Future Generali India Life Insurance Company came into existence in 2008. Operational with 104 branches, Future Generali is a joint venture between Generali Group, which is an international insurance group featuring in top 50 smartest companies in the world (MIT technology review 2015), Future Group – a pioneer retailer of India, and the Industrial Investment Trust Limited (IITL) – one of the leading investment companies.
- Future Generali Pramukh Nivesh: This is a single premium unit linked insurance plan i.e. it is available with a one-time lump sum premium payment option only. With an option of six different funds, one can choose to invest in a fund that matched one’s risk appetite. While the minimum premium amount stands at Rs. 50,000, there is no limit on the maximum premium.
IndiaFirst Life Insurance
Headquartered at Mumbai, IndiaFirst came into existence in 2009. It is a joint venture between Andhra Bank and Bank of Baroda – public sector banks in India, and Legal & General – a financial and Investment Company of the UK.
- IndiaFirst Smart Save Plan: It is a unit-linked insurance plan which offers a choice of five investment fund options. The plan allows switching to the extent of 24 free switches every year (2 free per month) with a minimum amount of Rs. 5,000. Single, limited and regular payment options are available while payment modes range from single, yearly and half-yearly.
Kotak Life Insurance Limited
Being one of the fastest growing insurance providers in India, Kotak Life covers more than 20 million lives across India (as on March 31, 2018).
- Kotak Ace Investment Plan: This unit-linked plan is investment oriented and offers a choice of seven distinct fund options. The frequency of premium can be paid monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annual. There is a choice of five policy terms – 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. Anyone from 0 to 60 years can avail this plan. However, the policyholder should be of age between 18 and 75 years.
- Kotak Wealth Insurance: This unit linked insurance plan provides its investor with the alternative to use surplus funds in the form of top-up premiums, thereby providing higher additional payout at death or maturity. There is a choice of 5 policy terms – 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. While the policyholder should be between 18 years and 65 years of age, the age of the life insured can be anywhere from 0 years to 65 years. Partial withdrawals are allowed after completing 5 policy years.
PNB MetLife India Insurance Company Limited
PNB MetLife India Insurance Company was established in 2001. Punjab National Bank (PNB), MetLife International Holdings LLC (MIHL), M. Pallonji and Company Private Limited, Jammu & Kashmir Bank Limited (JKB) and other private investors are the shareholders of PNB MetLife India.
- PNB MetLife Dhan Samriddhi: This plan offers a choice of choose from 6 fund options and allows 4 free switches. Partial withdrawals are allowed to the extent of 12 free withdrawals post which each withdrawal is charged Rs. 250. Funds can be withdrawn and policy surrendered any time after completion of 5 years.
- PNB MetLife Easy Super: It is a non-participating unit linked endowment plan offering sum assured to the extent of 10 times the chosen annualised premium amount. This plan is available for a period of 15-20 years and the premium-paying terms require customers to pay policy premiums for the entire length of the policy.
- PNB MetLife Smart One: This is a non-participating unit linked endowment plan is available for a period of 10-20 years, subject to the policyholder’s maximum maturity age. Premiums are to be paid once and range from a minimum of Rs. 18,000 to a maximum of Rs. 5 lakh. The sum assured amount is 5 times the single premium paid during the first policy year plus 1.25 times the single premium paid for the remaining policy years.
- PNB MetLife Smart Platinum: The unit linked insurance plan offers customers six different fund options to choose from. Premium can either be paid monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly. The minimum premium amount is Rs. 30,000 under the annual premium payment mode while it is Rs. 60,000 per year for all other payment modes.
Reliance Nippon Life Insurance Company Limited
Reliance Nippon Life Insurance Company is one of the leading private sector life insurance companies in India. Being a part of Reliance Capital, this company holds a distribution network of 727 branches and over 55,492 advisors.
- Reliance Classic Plan II: This is a non-participating unit linked endowment plan with minimum annualised premium for single pay of Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 15,000 under regular pay. The minimum and maximum age at entry is 7 years and 60 years respectively. The minimum and maximum age at maturity is 22 years and 75 years.
- Reliance Pay Five Plan: Every major component of this non-participating unit linked endowment plan has something to do with the number ‘5’. This plan offers a choice of 5 investment funds. One can start building a sizeable corpus with payment of just 5 yearly premiums, are also avail tax benefits. The premium paying term is 5 years and one can opt for partial withdrawals after the completion of 5 years of policy or after attaining 18 years of age, whichever is later.
Let us Guide the Investors!
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